I was involved with sports for a significant portion of my adolescence. Basketball, soccer, track, and softball. I excelled in two of those (track and soccer) until a career ending knee surgery at age 15, and now I stick to the treadmill.
On the bright side, I got out of it before I had time to be super invested or think I had a chance of collegiate excellence, not that there was much hope of it in the first place.
And of all my athletic ventures, the sport I wish I had been better at is softball.
I was a half-decent catcher, surprisingly, although it exacerbated said knee issues. It was also assigned to me after I failed at shortstop and outfield. However, I could throw the farthest on the team. And I had a killer swing.
The issue was that I had 0% sense of aim, couldn’t hit a target, and could not connect with the ball to save my life.
It was a shame, really. When I first started out, I was already involved in soccer and basketball, so I looked like an athlete. I remember how excited my coaches looked to have me on the team when they saw me run. And when I swung a bat, they complimented my form with comments like, “killer swing!”
But, all too soon their praise turned to exasperation when they realized, during batting practice, that I could not connect with the ball. Watching the hope drain out of their eyes every time I struck out (which was, unfortunately, often) was pretty brutal, at the time. It was also perplexing to my teammates. I mentioned that I could throw the farthest on my team, and that was true – which is why I started in the outfield. But I also couldn’t aim AT ALL. I once tried to throw someone out at first from left field and threw it so far over the first baseman’s head the runner almost scored. I was a very bizarre combination of incredible strength, powerful image, and a stunning lack of grace and alarming inability to properly regulate my senses and limbs.
The one positive about my killer swing, though, was the fear it put into the eyes of my competition. And I did get some enjoyment out of that, as did my coaches and teammates. I mean, I was young then, but involvement in lots of sports meant that I cut an impressive figure, and I’ve always had a bitch face, so I looked kind of scary. I was able to intimidate, usually in pre-game warm ups, where I could usually hide how terrible I really was and look much more skilled.
So, if I couldn’t hit, I did what I could to put my killer swing to use.
I was usually put into a favorable spot in the lineup (hope sprang eternal for my coaches) and I distinctly remember one instance where I was standing in the on deck circle, probably thinking about snacks, and the opposing coach was watching me swing, and he yelled out to his pitcher, “Watch out for this next one!” and it took all my inner-strength not to laugh out loud. Because, if I wasn’t going to get any better (which I never did), I needed to be able to find humor in the situation.
And I guess the coach’s warning rankled his pitcher, because she didn’t throw the ball anywhere near the strike zone and I sailed through with a walk. I tried to get walked a lot, to be honest, since I knew I couldn’t hit. I also glared a lot to try and intimidate competitors not to mess with me, or peg my weaknesses. And I got by well enough without exposing my inabilities too badly, in most games. But I had fun playing, regardless.
So the moral of the story? Make the best of your situation, and even if you can’t back up your killer swing, find other ways to make your shortcomings work for you.